Changing tides: Spartans defeat Mariners in league play
The St. Stephen High Spartans girls basketball team defeated the Fundy Middle High Mariners 63-35 in the county rival’s first meeting of the season Tuesday evening at St. Stephen High School.
The Spartans held a slim three point lead at the end of the first quarter (10-7).
The Mariners Brenna Kelson sunk a three point shot to open the second quarter and tied the Spartans, but the Spartans specialty of a tough defence and full court press brought the squad a seven point lead at the half (25-18).
The Spartans started the second half strong, putting 21 points on the scoreboard to the Mariners 11 in the third quarter.
Cara Babcock led the Spartans with 16 points, while Ally Caldwell put up 12, and Megan Haley added eight.
Sara Fudge and Erin Ingalls of the Mariners scored seven points each, and Sophy Craig added six.
Spartans coach Dave Taylor said though the game was close in the first half, he was pleased with his team’s defence, but said the shots weren’t falling.
“We were sharing the ball well, but we didn’t knock them down early – I thought we missed some layups around the rim – but I liked where we were at halftime.”
The Spartans are now 11-1 in the season, and recently won a tournament title against the solid Carleton North Stars.
“We’re right where I’d hoped we’d be,” Taylor said. “We returned eight players and having five seniors, we needed to come in and hit the ground running, and I think we’ve done that.”
In the previous season, the Mariners advanced to the provincial final – the first time since the early 90s. Seven seniors from the squad graduated, and the team now has nine Grade 9 students, and one senior.
Though the team is young, Taylor praised the strong work ethic of the group, in what may be the kindest rivalry in the county.
“[The Mariners] work their tail off. [Coach Ryan Daye] has a really nice group of young kids that work their butt off,” said Taylor.
Haley, a Grade 11 student, like her coach, credited the Mariners with a strong work ethic, admitting the Spartans “underestimated” the rival team in the first half.
“They’re a better team, definitely than we ever thought they would be after losing all of their starters, but I think we had a better comeback in the end and just respected them more in the second half.”
Recalling the message at halftime, Haley said Taylor encouraged the Spartans to “do more on offence.”
“We’re a very good defensive team, but we don’t always look to score and were always looking for assists, so we just have to keep on going to the net, and driving and shooting and never give up.”
The Mariners are coming off a long stretch of games – the Tuesday game was the squad’s 10th in 12 days – and while Daye said it was not an excuse, admitted his team “looked really tired,” and credited the Spartans for a strong game.
“St. Stephen was super organized and disciplined and ran their thing. We know part of the deal with having nine Grade 9 kids on the team, and some nights you’re going to look like Grade 9 kids.”
Daye added he felt his team competed defensively, but struggled with the Spartans’ press, creating turnovers.
“The kids were out there working hard; … we just can’t turn the ball over that much.”
Olivia Weaire, the Mariners captain and sole senior on the squad, noted the Spartans “have a really good team this year,” and said the team was slightly nervous and anxious prior to the game.
“We knew they were a good team, and weren’t quite sure what we were up against,” Weaire said.
“[The Spartans] had a lot of good of plays and stuff so that was different from what we’ve seen so far and we had a hard time catching up with that.”
As the sole senior, Weaire said she hopes to set a good example for the younger students, and with a laugh, said the job is “a little bit scary, but also exciting.”
“I have a lot of other support – the other Grade 11 and 10’s to rely on, so that’s great. I think they’re doing awesome, and I’m really proud of my team.”
The Spartans are slated to travel to Rothesay on Wednesday to compete in a league game, while the Mariners are slated to host Grand Manan in exhibition Tuesday at 4 p.m.
1st quarter: 10-7 (Spartans)
Halftime: 25-18 (Spartans)
3rd quarter: 46-29
Spartans – 15/20
Mariners – 6/26